BY NICK DIAMANTIDES
Just about every elected official in Long Beach and its surrounding cities knows Dan and Holly Pressburg. In fact, many of them have been to the Pressburgs’ more-than-100-year-old farmhouse for brunch. For the past five years, prior to every election in the Long Beach area, the Pressburgs have invited candidates and the public to brunch at their home– the Historic Dairy and Creamery in North Long Beach.
“We hold these informal meetings for those who are seeking office, the public, and local advocates,” Dan said. “This event is not a forum or debate but an opportunity to meet and ask questions of representatives and future representatives.”
Last Saturday, he hosted another candidates brunch while his wife was out of town. About 70 people attended. They included community activists, elected officials and candidates hoping to be elected to the Long Beach and Signal Hill city councils. Comments from some of the attendees follow:
“Dan is a wonderful host when there is an election,” said 54th District Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal. “He enjoys having all the candidates come together to share ideas and meet with neighbors. This has been another terrific morning.”
“This is a wonderful mingling of people from every ethnic block and from poverty level to the wealthy,” said Signal Hill City Councilman Larry Forester.
“What a great opportunity for elected officials and people running for office to be able to meet residents in a very casual setting,” said Edward Villanueva, candidate for Signal Hill City Council.
“For many years I was involved with groups that did forums,” Pressburg said. “Forums are good in their place, but they’re very stilted. This allows people to be who they really are in a neutral area, and it shows them a part of Long Beach that they may not have even known exists.”
“This is the first time I have been to Dan’s home, and I found it a great way to meet new people and get the message out,” said Kathy Ryan, of Long Beach Taxpayers. “It’s a great way to connect with the politicians and candidates who are running for office.”
“This is an excellent way for people to meet those who are currently in office and those running for office,” said Signal Hill City Councilman Ed Wilson.
Rick Berry, candidate for the Long Beach City Council 1st District, said he enjoyed being able to talk to people one-on-one in a relaxed setting. “I very much appreciate Dan opening up his home to us today,” he said. “So far, everybody running for the 1st District seat seems to get along very well. We had good conversations today.”
“Here at Mr. Pressburg’s house you get to see people from all walks of life,” said Jesse Brown, a Lakewood resident, who used to live in Long Beach. “It’s fascinating who you get to rub elbows with and talk to.”
“This gathering is good for the democratic process,” said former Long Beach Mayor Eunice Sato. “It’s not like a debate where everyone has a few minutes to talk. Here they can mix and talk to anybody.”
“I live in the first district, and this brunch allowed me to see all the council candidates and talk to some of them one-on-one,” said Jerlene Tatum, community development administrator for the United States Veterans Initiative.
“It gives an opportunity for people who are active in the community to meet each other and share ideas,” said Travis Miller, Long Beach resident. “Because Dan is so well networked in the community, he can bring together a good mix of people and candidates.”
“These brunches are unique. There are many ways to hear the candidates through the press, through debates and forums,” said Alan Tolkoff, community activist. “But in no other place that I know of can you meet them one-on-one where they are all together. It can be a social occasion, and yet it can also be an intense political conversation. Dan and Holly have brought something to Long Beach that, in my knowledge, you cannot find anywhere else in this area.”
“Today I had a very interesting crowd of people from all over the place,” Pressburg said. “This breakfast and this house are well known in Long Beach, Signal Hill, Paramount and Carson.”
Pressburg added that allowing candidates to just be themselves in an informal setting is good for the democratic process. “Usually everything is scripted, because they are participating in a forum or delivering a speech,” he said. “Here, there is no forum and there are no formal questions. All candidates have an equal footing with the front runner.”
Dan Pressburg also serves as a moderator for forums throughout the region, where he screens questions and presents them to the candidates. “Forums are good too,” he said. “But what makes this work is that I don’t force the candidates to do anything. They can come here, just have breakfast and leave if they want to. But none of them do that.” He explained that candidates understand that it is important to meet people and get their faces known and their message out. “They are glad to stick around and talk,” he said.